iPorn exists! I take it all back

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(Asian Boobs)

As proprietor of a family site (in the sense that my mum sometimes reads the blog), Baruch is unwilling to show the images of one of the apparently best-selling apps on the iPhone, “ASIAN BOOBS“. Yes, it is Asian soft porn, charming oriental ladies in bras and knickers, in uncomfortable poses; it’s not pictures of vaguely silly people from China. Of course, this gives the lie to Baruch’s contention that there is no porn on the iPhone platform.

Baruch would like to claim this app only exists because someone at Apple reads Ultimi Barbarorum. No such luck.  Baruch’s scribblings on the banality of the iPhone’s walled garden might have forced the iPhone censor to respond in that inconsistent, atavistic manner of all pro “decency” censors through the ages, you would think, by allowing Asian Boobs onto the platform as a sop. But the app has apparently been a best seller for some time before Baruch wrote his post. Baruch fancies Apple have a group of blog flaks somewhere in Marketing whose job it is to influence commentary on prominent sites, or at least to report on Apple-related issues as reported in the blogosphere. The blog flak would take one look at Baruch’s traffic on some blog rating site or something and realise he didn’t have to bother.

(Don’t bother checking Asian Boobs out by the way; the app is rubbish. You don’t even get to see any nipples).

Meanwhile in another threat to Baruch’s Apple-as-victor thesis, as Dear Reader Cash Mundy points out in comments, the Android axis has been going great guns this week, with Android 2.0 launched, the announcement of a lovely Garmin-killing free navigation app from Google, and the launch of the new Motorola Droid (and a host of follow-on machines from other) to peans of praise from the techno-bloggers. Is this the point when the tide suddenly changed, the El Alamein of Apple’s global smartphone dominance?

Maybe. Who knows? I think Android is definitely likely to clean PALM’s clock, and possibly RIM’s too. But while it looks exciting and all, it also looks very fiddly. Do I want “widgets”? Whatever the hell they are. Do I want my phone constantly bleeping at me with the tweets of distant acquiantances I met once in a bar and don’t know how to tell to sod off, do I want Facebook offers of fricking virtual Bonsais and the latest appeal to stop dogs being used as shark bait force fed to me while I am in meetings or trying to play minesweeper? I suspect Android will be a mess; will all the apps work on all the different hardware configs of the thousand different manufacturers in the ecosystem? How will it work with the Verizon app store, the Vodafone store, the Google-hosted app store etc? Will it be as crap as Gmail (Baruch still has terrible problems using Gmail)? Will it actually have porn? And most importantly, will Google be able to pay it the consistent attention it deserves, outside of brief spurts of focus like we got this week? Prioritizing everything at the same time in one’s quest to organise the world’s information must be hard.

My current thinking is that Android manufacturers probably come to dominate the non-Apple part of the market, but probably don’t flatten the trajectory of iPhone adoption. Apple has many things it can do to step on the gas if it looks like someone is catching up: accelerate the end of operator exclusivity, create a portfolio of devices at different price points and/or, worst of all, decide to accept a lower gross margin, a merely impressive 50% rather than the quite astonishing 60% they are supposed to be getting, and cut price.

But let’s hope, as I said, that I’m wrong.


7 thoughts on “iPorn exists! I take it all back”

  1. Recall this post?


    That was over a year ago and the iPhone is on pace for at least 20 million units per year (extrapolating from the Q2 numbers). In contrast, Nokia is having an extended sojourn in the sauna. A few vaguely connected thoughts:

    – Apple’s iPhone R&D spending is laughably low. Fancy UI and good industrial design is not terribly expensive, if you have the right people and vision. The rest of the HW is table-stakes from a super-phone perspective.

    – the user experience of a device is utterly un-correlated to the R&D spending that went into it (just ask Nokia) and the user experience is what makes the iPhone king.

    – Apple isn’t going to bother deliberately creating new devices at different price points. That will happen naturally as the previous version is reduced in price (e.g. the 3G vs 3GS). This has the advantage of costing no money.

    – the plethora of different devices from other vendors/OSs will ensure that the other app stores are feeble imitations of Apple’s.

    – a buddy is a product manager @ RIM. Apparently, something as seemingly trivial as the different screen sizes and resolutions of the various RIM devices means that generic apps have more difficulty delivering a good user experience.

  2. It’s important to consider that we’re at the infancy of the superphone. The funny thing is that despite this, in some ways, there’s not much more room for HW innovation. Sure batteries will last longer, CPUs will get faster and memory and mega-pixels will increase and they’ll eventually work with LTE and/or WiMAX. But the basic form factor is pretty set (with a few variants such as slide-out keyboard vs pure touchscreen). The desire for usability mandates a large touch screen but portability prevents them from getting any bigger.

    People update their phones every few years, typically synchronized to their contract…mine with Rogers is 3 years. But now we’re much less beholden to the physical device because:
    – our mobile numbers are portable between carriers and hence phones (even when there’s handset exclusivity)
    – our contacts/calendars/e-mail is typically synced to something online though ActiveSync or something similar
    – we typically sync our multimedia with a PC/Mac

    So when we switch devices, all we really leave behind are the apps we bought. As dominant as Apple’s stranglehold seems, they’re not immune to fickle consumer preferences. As I said in my previous post, the R&D costs of an excellent superphone are relatively modest, especially when it is built on an existing OS and doesn’t push the HW envelope. The opportunity for new entrants is still there. If nothing else, there will always be people who insist on removable batteries and upgradeable memory though perhaps Apple will relent on that once Steve Jobs is out of the picture.

    The real battleground is the app store. Apple’s is so far ahead of the pack that it looks like it will never be caught and many argue that the app store will cement iPhone permanent dominance (similar to what iTunes did for iPods). However, consider that tools to facilitate cross-platform app development already exist and will get better and better. Couple this with apps within the browser and HTML 5 and the app store may wither away (at least as a significant differentiators).

    My point is that the analysis space of phones has changed dramatically from the pre-superphone era. The key considerations are user experience, SW platforms, OS, etc, all of which are reminiscent of the computing world. Once, the customer bought the service and got the phone from the carrier, almost as an aside. Now they buy the phone from it’s manufacturer and get the service from the carrier, as an aside. Some players don’t get this. Ask someone at RIM who their customer is and they’ll say Verizon, NTT, etc. Apple will say it’s you. The space is new and unprecedented (at least the computing world didn’t have the weird triad of device vendors, carriers and customers). So whatever you (or I) think is going to happen will probably end up being wrong.

    1. Hey Ramster! How you doing? I was fully prepared not to remember that post if it involved me being embarrassingly wrong about something. But as I seem to come out of it OK, even in hindsight, I will indeed remember it with you. I think we’re seeing both your point– that all R&D dollars are not created equal, and that software matters, and mine — that scale works and is important. PALM is an example of how software excellence without scale
      I have to say however I was unprepared for exactly how hopeless Apple’s handset competitors have been, and how rapidly that uselessness has been translated into loss of share, and the reversal of previous advantages.

  3. Baruch,

    As a token of appreciation for my honorable mention, allow me to proffer for your approval:


    I agree with Ramster.

    As technology reached the point where a hand-held general-purpose computer capable of running existing operating systems and software was feasible at reasonable cost, it was as inevitable as the laptop before it. Apple got there first not because of any great genius on their part, but because as Baruch has pointed out, the existing cell-phone companies and carriers were clueless and backward-looking, in their mentality similar to the old Bell System, which owned both the network and the phone and had a corresponding attitude.

    The new devices, which I am calling hand-brains for the time being, are still phones to the same degree that laptops are still word-processors and adding-machines. While there are still people who want only a cell-phone and nothing more, they will probably be gone within a generation, except perhaps for a niche market for very small devices which are nothing but phones.

    Cell-phone makers which fail to rapidly adapt by ditching their obsolete proprietary software and executing a strategy based on the new reality will be road-kill on the Information Superhighway. Motorola appears to have gone from being a moribund deer-in-the-headlights to leaping aboard the Android 18-wheeler.

    As the hardware is standardized and commoditized, Chinese and other Asian vendors will probably dominate at least the entry-level part of the market.

    Google appears to be leaving Apple behind in the only obvious area for innovation, which is voice interaction. As Ramster points out, the limiting factor at this point is the size of the device one is willing to carry around, which constrains the traditional mouse and keyboard interface. One can do a lot with a touch-screen and so forth, but beyond that, voice command and voice response is the clear path, and one Google seems to be following well.

    1. Thanks for the link, Cash, but I think we’ve all proved that haiku are not a proper literary form for discussion of finance. The terrible, really awful haiku on that website merely go to confirm it.

      Motorola may have jumped on the 18-wheeler of Android, but is stuck on the outside and can’t get into the cab; it’s probably going to fall off and go under the wheels in a bit. Voice is an interesting interface, you are right.

      Please think of another name for these devices. “Hand brains”, I hope you’ll forgive me for saying so, may not stick. “I forgot to recharge my hand-brain”; “my handbrain screen got all scratched”; “my 3 year old dropped my handbrain in the toilet”; none of these are things anyone should ever have to say. Nokia calls them “mobile computers.” What’s wrong with that?

  4. Baruch,

    I felt certain you would appreciate the Financial Haiku site. It could be that the true test of proper Faiku (couldn’t resist) is that it rise above mere mediocrity to be be, as Leonard Pinth-Garnell might put it, “really, really bad.”

    I see your point about the “hand-brain”. I’m just an old geek; what, like I know from style? Not so much…

    Perhaps marketing types really do have some use, such as thinking up something like “Handy” which is then immediately trade-marked. What they are called in the long term will inevitably be determined by teen-agers, the schwerpunkt of linguistic and cultural (d-?)evolution.

    I’m surprised you are so adamantly bearish on Motorola. From what I have read of the Droid, I am seriously considering shelling out serious bucks to buy one from Europe, where they should be appearing with a GSM radio, via ebay. But that’s just me.

    Speaking of eBay, most of my tech purchases of late, admittedly all small items, have been on eBay, directly from China. I used to get everything from newegg.com (I still recommend them), but the price of shipping directly from Hong Kong or Singapore is apparently much less than the middle-man markup one pays for the same item from a Stateside vendor.

    I recently fed my hand-thingie by buying it a 1600mah battery (it eats the stock 1100 mah one up way too fast), a new back cover and a pretty nice case, each item setting me back well under US$10, arriving rapidly and being quite satisfactory (and as a bonus, the battery has yet to explode or even catch fire). I have no idea if this direct-marketing from China will become significant for tech companies and vendors who are mostly just selling mostly-Chinese products, just thought I’d mention it.

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